SOLANA BEACH — In the name of “organizational effectiveness” the city is eliminating the Public Safety Commission, which was created in December 1998 to advise council members and the city manager “on matters pertaining to the creation, operation, maintenance, use, management and control of crime and traffic safety programs.”
Following a review of the group’s activities, council directed staff at the Aug. 25 meeting to begin the process of retiring the commission at this time.
“We did ask for this review a while ago because of resource issues,” Mayor Lesa Heebner said. “One of the things that stood out the most in this report is the number of high-level staff department heads who are taken away from the rest of their work to come in to inform the commission.”
Heebner said the group’s members are being informed but the public is not. She said other resources exist for residents to provide input or garner information about public safety.
“The Transportation Technical Advisory Committee looks at the same issues,” City Manager Greg Wade said, adding that the sheriff’s captain would like to begin regular, informal Coffee with the Captain meetings to update residents and hear what they have to say.
“There are some other efforts that staff is engaging in that in some ways could be considered duplicative of the Public Safety Commission,” Wade said.
The commission was created with 11 members, but was reduced to seven in 2008. There were four vacancies in January when council members made their annual appointments to all commissions.
Four residents applied to serve on Public Safety but council appointed only two — incumbents Bernhard Geierstanger and David Bittar — until staff returned with a summary of actions, if any, the group had taken during the past four or five years.
Kristi Day, a five-year member, said because many reports indicate the commission took no action “that seems like … we don’t do anything.”
But Day noted the commission was created to advise the council and that’s what members have been doing.
“You guys have done such a wonderful job of creating a wonderfully safe community over the years in Solana Beach,” she said. “It may seem small” but the commission was responsible for the addition of a handicap crossing at Lomas Santa Fe Drive and Nardo Avenue.
The group also notified the city engineer when “countless” streetlights were out, highlighted bike lane issues, brought in safety experts to talk to the community and ensured that private schools were receiving the same safety information as public schools.
“That was an issue,” she said.
A sheriff’s lieutenant, the lifeguard captain, the Fire Department battalion chief and support staff attend Public Safety Commission meetings, which are typically held at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.
“To me I think the issue is where there is a use of resources on the part of the city that can be saved, that’s something that we have a duty to look at,” Councilman Peter Zahn said. “And in this case I think that the city manager has laid out some alternative channels and forums … for public input that don’t involve city staff … and law enforcement … on this regular basis.
“So my sense is that it does deserve a hard look,” he added. “It is a tough decision because of your obvious commitment. … I really favor removing the commission but opening up alternative channels.”
“I’m conflicted right now,” Councilman Dave Zito said, noting that input may be going to staff but it is “certainly not getting back to council. It doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.”
Zito said after nearly three years on council “I couldn’t really say I knew what was going on in the commission. It could be partly my fault.”
Councilwoman Ginger Marshall, like her colleagues, said she appreciates the commitment of the members but suggested the resources may be “better spent elsewhere and we can maybe reorganize.”
“The issue of our city resources is very, very, very important and we have to keep that in mind,” Heebner said. “We don’t have an easy role when we have to make these tough decisions.”
Meanwhile, council members extended to Sept. 4 the deadline to apply to serve on the Parks and Recreation Commission because insufficient applications were received.
“How propitious,” Heebner said. “We have some commissioners in search of a job.”
One position that expires in January 2017 is available on Parks and Rec. Duties include supporting and staffing city-sponsored events and advising council on issues related to communication programs, activities, parks and beaches.
Members meet at 4 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month.
The Public Arts and View Assessment commissions also have one vacancy each.
Public Arts, which meets monthly at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday, carries out art-related events and assists in the selection, installation and maintenance of public art, including exhibits in gallery at City Hall.
View Assessment meets at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday to review feasible solutions for development on view assessment applications and provide definitive decisions on projects based on the council’s adopted guidelines and tool kit.
Both positions expire in January 2016. Applications are due Sept. 4. Council is scheduled to make appointments Sept. 9.
To apply, visit the city website at ci.solana-beach.ca.us or call the city clerk at (858) 720-2400.